Many businesses choose to trade under names that are different to the actual names of the business operators. Business names can be used by sole traders, partnerships and companies.
What is a business name and do I need one?
Business names are names that are different to the actual name of a sole trader, partnership or company.
A “business name”, sometimes known as a “trading name” is a name under which a business operator conducts their business.
Why have business names?
Business names are used for a number of different reasons.
Business names are often used to help businesses inform the public about what they do or for marketing purposes. It is also often used by business operators that have more than one business and they wish to make it easier for people to differentiate between them. Whether you wish to use a business name will depend on your individual circumstances.
What business names can you use?
Most names can be used in Vanuatu but there are some important exceptions that you should be aware of.
Most business names can be used in Vanuatu. However, there some exceptions for names that cannot be used. A proposed business name will be refused if it is identical (or similar enough to deceive or mislead) to a:
- Company name
- Business name registered in the past five years, or
- Reserved business name
Other grounds for refusal are where the proposed name:
- Suggests a connection with government or other public bodies
- Contains the word “co-operative” or building society, or
- the Registrar otherwise decides the name is undesirable.
Applying for a business name
Applying for a business name is quick and easy online either at home or at VFSC’s kiosks. If you have limited computer skills, paper applications are also available.
There are two main ways to register a business name:
- Reserve a business name and then apply for the name at a later stage, or
- Applying directly for the name
It is quicker and cheaper for you to apply directly for the business name.
Reserving a business name
You are able to put a business name on hold for six months ahead of applying to register the business name. After this time, you must either give up the name or reserve the name again. However, you should note that you may only reserve a proposed business name twice over a five year period.
Reservation is easily done online.
The fee for reserving a business name is VT5,000. Please note that if you go on to register the business name an additional fee of VT10,000 to VT12,000 will be payable.
Registering a business name
Registering a business name is simple and can be done easily online.
The fee for registering a business name is VT10,000 if done online and VT12,000 using the paper form or via email.
If you are unsuccessful in registering a business name there is no fee if done online and VT2,000 if you used the paper form or email.
Obligations for business name holders
There are number of important things that you must do when you use a business name.
If you use a business name, then there are a number of simple things that you need to do. You must:
- Display your business name certificate at the place of business,
- Put your actual name on written documents associated with the business (e.g. invoices, receipts, demands for debts), and
- Renew your registration every year.
You must renew your business name registration every year.
Renewing your registration
Renewing your business name is important so that your details are up to date and VFSC knows that you are still trading under a business name. Renewing your business name provides you with further protection against others who may attempt to trade using your business goodwill and reputation. It also means that older names that are not being used anymore can be used by new businesses. You are required to renew your business name within the “anniversary period”.
What is the anniversary period?
The anniversary period is the same month as the month you first registered your business name.
For example, if you registered a business name on 23 July 2015, you can renew the name anywhere between 1 July and 31 July 2016. You must renew the name every year during these dates.
Renewing a business name is simple and can be done rapidly online, or if necessary, by paper.
The fee for renewing a business name is VT5,000.
If you renew your business name during the two months after the anniversary period then you must pay a penalty of VT5,000 if applying online or VT7,500 if using the paper application or email. Please note that this is in addition to the usual renewal fee.
If you do not renew your business name within the two month period then your business name will expire. If you later want to use the business name again you must re-apply to use it. Please note that if you trade under an expired business name then you could possibly open yourself up to severe penalties, including a fine of up to VT100,000.
Business names can be registered to resident individuals or to a local company.